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Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Updated: March 23, 12:08 PM ET
Daniel Dhers: The Definition of Pro

X Games Gold Medalist Daniel Dhers poses with a fan for photos. That's just one of the many duties of a pro.

Up to now, we've explored the concept of pro as it has evolved outside the contest scene. But Daniel Dhers is different. Daniel is all about the contest scene, and he rides them extremely well. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, Daniel wasn't brought up through a supportive amateur contest scene. Instead, he jumped headfirst into the pro class at the 2003 South American X Games in Brazil. Daniel himself will say that he wasn't ready to enter pro ("I think I was a mid-level amateur," he says), but the experience pushed him to realize what he had to do to make it in the worldwide contest scene as a top pro. And he achieved that in a relatively short period of time, going from unknown pro to multiple X Games Gold Medalist in the span of several years.

But there's more to Daniel than just top contest placings and a deep bag of tricks. Because he had to work from the ground up, he understands what it takes to be a pro in BMX, and he was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the role of BMX professional. This is Daniel Dhers. When did you first consider yourself a "pro" in BMX?
Dhers: I think I entered pro contests in 2003, but I didn't really think I was up to that level yet. Back then, I was trying to make my way up to the states, and the first pro contest I entered was the Brazilian X Games. I think I was a mid-level amateur though. Maybe in 2005, when I won the Baco Jam, I was like "Woah, I won my first pro contest." It wasn't a big one, but I think at that point, there were some pro names that I had beat, and I made some money as well. I think from then on, I considered myself more of a pro.

Did anyone push you to ride in the pro class or was that your own decision?
That was my decision. I wanted to make it to the states. And when the Brazilian X Games came around here, there was only one class. I didn't do so well the first couple of years, and then, in 2004, I got seventh place. All the American riders got the top placings. In a way though, I was content. In South America, it seemed like I was in a good position, so I thought that now I should try to get to the states. That same year, I went to the Vans Triple Crown in Denver, and I got 24th. Right then, I realized that there was still a gap between me and the other pro riders. But then I went to another Triple Crown in Huntington Beach and got seventh, so right there, I was trying to fit into the pro scene.

Demos are a huge part of the pro BMX lifestyle. Here, Daniel pulls a no-handed 360 with ease on the Red Bull Bargespin tour through Florida.

What do you think defines a "pro" in BMX?
There's a couple ways to define it. Some people say that if you make money at BMX, then you're a professional. Competing-wise, there's a lot of kids out there that have a few good tricks, and they're like "Okay, I'm pro. I'm ready to go in and try to win." But I think that the pro level is so out of hand that some people aren't prepared yet to be pro. They might think they have certain tricks to win, but they have to go against Scotty Cranmer and Mark Webb and Ryan Nyquist. If you think you're at their level, then yes, go ahead. But if you think you still need some work, then wait and try to win a couple of amateur contests. And if that goes well, then you're ready to try pro.

What are your average duties as a pro BMX rider?
One thing is with sponsorships: being on the phone with them, working out photo shoots, filming or projects. I don't really think I have many duties past interviews and photo assignments. There are months where I have a lot of stuff to do, and other months where I don't. There are sponsors that require you to film a certain amount of Web edits or shoot photos, but my sponsors mainly ask me to go to the big contests. At the same time though, I like doing it, so I don't feel like I have to do it. I would be doing it anyway.

Do you think there's a difference between a "street" pro and a "contest" pro?
It's hard to understand. How do you really "turn pro" in street? I guess, if you can film amazing video parts, and people are really talking about you, I think that's when you turn pro. But I see street more as being about filming. You go out to film, and something could take you a thousand tries. It's a different definition of pro. You might be trying way gnarlier stuff, but it's not happening first try. Whereas in park or dirt, you have to pull things first try. It's just two separate disciplines of BMX.

Who do you think is a model pro BMXer?
I think Jamie Bestwick for sure. He's a really good bike rider, and at the same time, he's a professional. The same with Dave Mirra and Ryan Nyquist, the older top guys. I feel like I'm part of the newer generation still, and I feel that we might not have the same clue that they do because they've been around for a long time. But those guys have a good outlook on what a professional is.

Autograph session on the Red Bull Bargespin tour. According to Daniel, "I like being a pro, so I don't feel like I have to do it. I would be doing it anyway."

Do you think companies need to take a more active role in nurturing their riders and turning them from am to pro?
I think that could be good. And I think that could help make the sport more legit. In skateboarding, the companies sponsor amateur riders, and the company is the one that turns them pro, with a board. They have a system. I feel like that could be awesome for BMX. I like when I see BMX brands that have amateur riders or flow riders that get promoted to pro. That means they're actually taking steps instead of going out and grabbing the most ridiculous rider right away. There might be companies that do that, but at the same time, there are others that have grassroots teams that can turn into something bigger. It gives the riders something to work for, especially the up and comers.

What would you tell an aspiring rider that wants to be a pro?
Just do it because you love it. It would depend on someone's style of riding. If you like contests, then try to enter as many contests as possible and gain experience. If you fall, the important part is to get up and try again.